Just a weird day.

Yesterday was a rough day, and if you asked me what was wrong, I wouldn’t even be able to tell you.
I tried figuring it out, but I couldn’t get any solid reasoning.
It was just a weird day.

These happen occasionally, and usually when they do I find myself wanting to be around nobody. Not because I don’t like people, but because people tend to not understand when I’m quiet and not my “happy, bubbly self” and that can prove to be really overwhelming to me.

I debated going to dance class. I love dance and it makes me feel most alive out of anywhere and is one of the few things that can shut off my over-thinking, but sometimes it can prove counterproductive.
I was afraid to go in case this was one of those counterproductive days.
Those are the most difficult.

I got a simple text from a dance friend asking if I had seen the sky today. She said she looked at it, saw how particularly beautiful it was that day and that she needed to tell me. I smiled. I knew I needed to at least try to let dance be what I hoped it would be for me today. If I didn’t go, then it would for sure not be a solution.

I let myself cry the whole way to class. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you that, because it’s an extremely vulnerable thing for me to say since people don’t typically see me sad and I don’t want pity or whatever, but it’s part of it so there you go.

(anyway)

I get to class and there are only four of us there, three being from the Jazz class before our ballet class. I was quiet, and one of the girls noticed, but I tried to be level and normal about it.

We start class, and Mrs. Alex is using classical covers of popular songs that I have never heard before. My heart begins to feel lighter.
We started with simple plies at the barre, focusing on our epaulement and not just going through the motions. I felt a little bad because usually when she explains something, I’ll try and be encouraging, showing that someone is listening and that what she’s saying is making sense, because I know the girls typically stay quiet. (at least the ones there yesterday.) But even I was quiet.
We went through the next combination, and Mrs. Alex walked around and gave corrections as she saw them. At one point she said, “Take a breath, make it fluid.” And I literally took a breath as I went along. Mrs. Alex happened to be looking at me and she said, “Good, Emilee!” As she continued on. When we finished, and she explained different things to fix and corrected a few girls specifically, she mentioned me, and how I did really well at making it fluid.
This is new to me. This is something I really want to work on, but have never really done successfully. Honestly, I just thought of my friend Abby, who is one of the principals, and how she does barre work and how she makes it fluid and being like a little kid and pretending I was her because imitation has to get you closer somehow, right?
Apparently.
My heart began to lighten.
I’m doing something right. I’m improving.
It’s not a mistake being here. I belong. And not just because I feel good at the moment.

Class carried on and we did things in the center and from the corner.
One of the songs was a version of The Pink Panther which instantly makes you feel like you need a trench coat and hat. Mrs. Alex says that the combination is going to be an ode to Crows and begins with a bit of the choreography from the Oz role. It ended with a pirouette in plie, which was unheard of for most of the girls. (so. much. fun.) The whole combination had me feeling great and really loosening up. The girls had fun with it and really started getting the hang of the whole thing.

Then we did a move we had never learned before, which shocked Mrs. Alex. I don’t remember the correct name for it, but essentially it’s a prance-y, soutenu turn in the air. They feel really funny at first, but look really cool. I was glad to get to learn them.
(This is my favorite part about taking Tuesday classes. We don’t work on recital so we are able to learn new things that we’ve seen but never tried.)
By the end of class we were getting the hang of them, but still a little funny. I asked Mrs. Alex to dumb it down for me since for some things I have to have an extremely technical breakdown for it to click. In this case, I was trying to hard to land it in fifth instead of chasse-ing through fifth. After getting that tip, I was better able to understand and execute the move. Still a little rough, but better, and it will improve with practice.
As we were leaving, I asked Mrs. Alex what I need to think about to better improve my grande jete’s. We never really went over them at my old studio, so I just kind of go about life pretending like I’m doing them right but I’m not very confident in them. I asked if it would be the plie, since that’s what I struggle with the most with my knees.
She gave me a look of confusion.
“Your jete’s never look bad to me. Not that I’ve noticed.”
I laughed and was awkward like I usually am and mentioned that they feel like they just kinda cap. Like I’m a sheep jumping over a fence rather than a split in the air, if that makes sense. She said she didn’t notice but she’ll start paying more attention to them now.

So I’m not as bad as I think I am?

After class, while speaking to our receptionist lady about crocheted blankets, I asked how the summer classes work. I know they have workshops during the day that I won’t be able to attend because of stupid work, but was curious what was available in the evenings. She highlighted the ones available on the entire spectrum and told me pricing for the different options (a bit steep for me, but I’m going to find a way to make it work somehow. I have to dance.) and I noticed that they were a bit more advanced. I said, “Will I be able to handle these classes?” and without missing a beat she said, “Of course you will! You’re one of the most confident dancers I’ve seen!” I laughed. And in my head is an ongoing dialog about how I’m really not confident, I just fake it til I make it because the repercussions of pretending you’re confident are way easier to handle than showing your insecurities. If no one knows, then you only have to deal with yourself.
Fake it til you make it.
But then my friend Andie was next to me, and she told me that I would be find.
“Emilee, you did advanced classes at Instep. You’ll be fine.”
“Yeah, but when you had to drop recital and I was the cover, she reblocked it because I couldn’t keep up. And if this is on pointe, I don’t know if I can handle it.”
“You’ll be fine. You can handle it.”

The thing with Andie is, if you can’t handle it, she’ll tell you.
If you’re just not there, she’ll tell you.
(only if you ask, though, she’s not a jerk just flaunting her opinion.)
She’s a really good friend to have, especially in the dance world, because if there’s something that needs work she’ll let you know and help you figure out how to improve it. Especially with turns.

It struck me to hear that the things I used to say as a sort of buffer so that people knew that I knew that I wasn’t all that good used to be accepted by people, because they were relatively true. But now when I say them, people are telling me they’re not true.
And I don’t think it’s just because they’re nice.
There’s a difference. A facial expression, a tone, a certain pitch their voice will take or words they’ll use to skirt around the topic.
Those weren’t used.
Andie said I could handle it.
And she’d be the first to tell me if I couldn’t.

I’m glad I went to class yesterday.

Hindsight.

I found myself in the spiraling vortex that is going through old blog posts.

It’s funny to look back on the beginning and remember how I felt when all of it happened, but also to have the insight of now. The reality. The full picture I couldn’t see while going through it.

I take these things into consideration with life now as I experience it. That I may feel a certain way towards people or things now–while they’re new–that may just be a bit of caught-in-the-moment.

But what if it’s not?
What if this time it isn’t too good to be true?
And good things came out of those moments; great things, wonderful things.
But I think part of it was fueled by hope that maybe one day I would feel the reality of those things I got glimpses of. Or maybe I thought that was the best things could get, never knowing how much more would be in store for me–how much more was possible.

I wrote things I felt then that I’ve never really felt until now. How is that possible if I said I felt them then?
I had no idea the entire extent of what could be.

Does any of this make sense? How does this even apply to dancing?
Well. I’m learning it through my life in dance.

This may not be the most interesting blog post throughout my story, but I just felt it needed to be said.

What if there’s better than the best you have now but you simply don’t know about it yet?
Don’t be afraid of what’s to come–of change or different or new.
It could be the very thing that leads you further into your dream than you ever even dreamed possible.

Wizard of Oz

I’m just now realizing that I haven’t written about this weekends shows at all.

So much has happened and there is much to say, but I fear I won’t have the words to get out all I want to.

Saturday started in a bit of a tizzy. One of the hardest working dancers in the entire company ended up having to have emergency surgery to have her appendix out the morning of the first show. As soon as I found out I actually cried; she was one of the few to be there every single rehearsal and is so very competent and just so talented. Not to mention that she is such a joy to watch. It shattered my heart to know that she had to miss out on the very thing she has worked all these months for, just hours before showtime.

The Poppies and the Emeralds had to have an emergency rehearsal to show the Poppy the dance and the two Emeralds that would be trading it their part.

The show went well enough. One of the Winkies ended up pretty frazzled from the first act all the way until curtain. So much so that she was going to get to be one of five to get to give flowers to the principals, but she was freaking out too much. I ended up getting to do it, which was really special for me because I got to give them to Glinda, who is played by one of my friends. The Winkie they originally told to do it asked to switch because she knew it would be special for me. Such a big heart for such a small girl. I am beyond grateful.

The Winkie Guard mom was unavailable, so they asked me to fill in. Before that, I was running around getting everyone to sign the letters O and Z in both red and green to give to Mrs. Julie and Ms. Munro (which I forgot to get pictures of) as well as my incorrect-sized shirt. Apparently one of the mom’s in charge was panicking because she couldn’t find me to ask me to help out with this, but we found each other in good time and it was okay. The girls are great. They call me Mom which is hilarious, but also rather convenient. I did the make-up for one of the girls whose Mom couldn’t be there (she’s eleven) to help her out. Apparently she only trusted me to do it. She’s one of the quieter ones (well, in front of people. Not if you really know her) so this made me feel awesome. Hehe.

As a whole, the show went really well. The girls did great and went over the parts we had gotten the most corrections on.
All the Crows were there, so I didn’t dance it, but people thought I did. Including my Mom. She was convinced it was me. It made me laugh.

Today’s show was even better.
Before we went on, Mrs. Julie came up to watch the Poppies from this door in our dressing room that lead to the lights up above the audience. She wanted to watch from the balcony, but they had locked the doors so she came up here instead. She let me stand on the little ledge with her and get pictures, which was really amazing. Such a great opportunity. Such an interesting perspective of the stage

The pictures came out amazing. My heart was exploding to know I had these to give to the girls, especially since I don’t typically get to watch poppies and that I didn’t get to shoot as much this show since Winkie Guards was on stage so much. Plus, Annika was rocking it and the poor girl was in so much pain. You would have never guessed it. 
I was giving Ms. Munro her signed letters in the costume room and lacing up my boots when Mrs. Jane came over and hugged me. I seriously could never express how wonderful she is and what she has done for me simply by being the sweet lady she is. I cry thinking of it. So simple, yet so profound. By that point, Ms. Munro had gone backstage, and came rushing back in saying, “Emilee, they’re waiting for you on stage! Grab your bow!”
Oh shoot, yeah, dancing, I should do that!
I run in, grab my bow, and get my keester on stage when everyone lets out a collective, “there you are!” and I hear my friend Abby (the Wicked Witch) whisper from her caped throne, “Don’t you scare me like that again!!” I couldn’t help but giggle. 
I love this place. I love these people. How wonderful to be getting to spend my days doing the thing I love the most with people who like having me there. My heart was so full.
Music begins.
Curtain comes up.
“Look mad, Emilee. Stop looking so happy!” which made me laugh inside. 
The girls did everything the best we’ve ever done. To say I was proud is an understatement. There was even a point when they were a little early on a bit, but they realized it and got back in time to the music and it took everything in me to keep my face fierce. But we did the whole show and it seemed to be done in a blink. As the finale was finishing with the emeralds and characters, I whispered to the Winkie Guards on my side, “Just take it in. This moment will never happen again. We’ll never have this sight again.” They asked what I meant and I said, “We will never have these roles in this show with these people ever again. Just take it in. It’s a beautiful sight.”
Apparently they took what I said to heart, because one of them quoted it later. 
I love these girls.
A bunch of my friends came to the shows, including about half my old studio, (old teacher included!) my mom and sister, my best friend, co worker, and a couple old friends. It was wonderful. 
Lucy and I went to get pizza afterwards which was probably the best decision of the entire night. She’s gonna try and go by and see Mari tomorrow and see how she’s doing. 
One of my favorite things of the whole show was the second dress rehearsal when we were all watching from the audience when suddenly our music starts playing and you see all the Winkie Guards and Monkeys rushing to the stage. Our bows got tangled so I was a little late on stage but you couldn’t tell cause the lights weren’t up yet. It was hysterical. 
Overall, this show has been one of my favorite things I have done in my entire life. 
To be surrounded by people who actually love me for who I am, not just for what I can do for them or the convenience of me being there, but because they value me as a person–just as I am–I’m not used to that, and it’s something I would love to get used to. I found myself crying at the thought of it. Each person touches my heart in ways I can’t find words for. It sustains me when things get really difficult and life gets stressful and crushes my spirit. I can “find my happy place” which will be the memories of these days.
These are the best days of my life.
(And now, some pictures. I will never take enough.)
some of my “babies”

Annika, with a pinched nerve, still flawless

Poppies

Closing of the First Act

The Wicked Witch is wicked

Andie and I 🙂

The Wizard.

He worked at my high school. I want to be like him when I grow up

My monkey! I love her

Annika 🙂

And Lillian!

The characters!

Sweet Judy and Butter, who was our fabulous Toto

The principal ladies with Julie

Julie and I

Instep!

Kristin and Jess!

“Everybody huddle up!”

Elizabeth and I

Abby, Elizabeth and I.

“The only copy of the picture I took is forever in my memory.”

Instep por vida!

Sarah and Liz, my #1 fans

Sweet Muneca

COUSIN

My mom and sister

Triggers.

“Stop whining.”

If you want to know the fastest way to break my spirit, get me to shut up, and subsequently not speak but rather hide inside myself for days all it takes is those two little words.

We got to work on our recital piece in the class today, even though we typically only run it on Thursday’s. Ms. Lori was really cleaning us up and giving us detailed corrections. There was a point when she told me to straighten my back leg. It’s really difficult to straighten my back leg on that part: it’s really fast for us, being the last group and the first for the next part, which makes my bad knee hurt if I’m not too careful and also limits how much I can plie which causes me trouble in the straightening of the other knee because it throws off my balance which apparently, in turn, causes my back leg to bend. I tried to tell this to Ms. Lori, and her response was, “Stop whining” cutting me off before I could finish. Once I got my breath back, I tried again to explain what it is with my knee, but I was already shaken. It literally only takes the moment for the words to leave the persons mouth and hit my ears, and I am wounded. I hate this fact about me, but there it is.
So I shut my mouth, did the best I could without killing my knee or something else in how quick it is, and just went with it. The next time we ran it, Ms. Munro was watching. While Ms. Lori was getting the music right, I tried the move a few times on my own to try and get the fluidity to straighten my back leg at the speed required. I should be able to do this, right? Stop whining, Emilee. Just shut up and do it. You’re pathetic. The oldest one here, and making excuses. You’ll never go anywhere with that attitude. You’re hopless. Stop whining.
Ileana is a gem and watched me, letting me know if my leg was straight or not just because she is made of pure sugar, which helped me be a little more confident. I tried it one more time and felt really great about the pique turn that follows the move my knee wasn’t straight in, noticing I was better onto my box and far more stable than usual. Ileana applauded. I got this.

We ran it for Ms. Munro, and it got to that part. My knee didn’t hurt too badly, and I did my absolute best to straighten my knee. But when it came to the pique turn, I hit the girl next to me as we turned.
Completely forgetting that this was the reason why my pique turns were rough in this part, (she would get on to us about being together. It was either hit summer or hit the barre on the wall, both of which I have done numerous times) I said, “I hit Summer!” and Ms. Lori snapped back, “No whining!”

It took everything in me to hold it together. I didn’t have time to fall apart. I couldn’t afford it. Ms. Munro is watching and I want so desperately to be good enough and show improvement and that I will work hard. Being told that I’m whining is the opposite of that. No one wants that on their team. No one wants to work with that. I had to literally shut out all of the thoughts in my head, because all they would do is cause me to break down, and I’ve managed to never do that at this studio and I’d like to keep that record.
Numb your mind, keep dancing.

At the end of class, I brought it up to Ms. Lori casually. I told her why I had spoken and what I had realized in why that part was rough. My pique turns were lacking because when I do them confidently I hit Summer or run into the barre, and if I run into the barre I can’t get to the next part and it’s really awkward. Not to mention painful. She said she didn’t meant to snap at me, she’s just on high stress level with theatre week for Oz and recital coming up, not to mention she’s also trying to fight off being sick. I told her I understood and that I know her intention is to just make us our best, not to be hurtful.

Now, it has come up that Ms. Lori teaches privates. I didn’t know this, and felt kind of left out that I hadn’t been informed, but that’s dumb because I could always ask and no one has to tell me. Most of it was still just the sting of the “whining” comment, so I tried to just let it roll off my shoulders. But I want to do privates with Ms. Lori. I would have done these a long time ago had I known they were an option (and if I can afford it.) One of the girls had one after class and I couldn’t help but be envious of the opportunity she had to improve. That she has parents that are able to pay for her classes and also support her in what she aspires to do. I didn’t have that with ballet like this. I just want to dance better.
(especially with Swan Lake being next year’s spring show. I want to be able to hold up and I know right now I’m not there.)

I got in my car and left the studio, turned on Taylor Swift to try and shake the sting, but instead proceeded to cry. Like a kid who was just yelled at by someone they look up to when they weren’t expecting it oh wait, that’s kinda what it is or a dog that’s been kicked.
Could I really take a private lesson with Ms. Lori? Half of my struggle with pointe is the fear that I’ll hurt myself. Could I handle her if this is her mindset towards me?
But I want to improve, right?
Right.
And I can handle Andie helping me. What makes this any different?
Maybe the insane vulnerability and realizing no one here really knows me or knows why I function the way I do.
But do they need to? Or is it just another excuse, a crutch that just holds me back from my best potential?
Am I nothing more than a whiner?

What am I afraid of?
Rolling my ankle like I did last September when I just went for it.
Or when my left foot isn’t stable no matter how hard I seem to try or how confident I try to be about it.
Falling like I did trying to roll up in a develope
Not being able to roll up at all and falling on my face or rolling my ankle like, ya know, has happened.
Doing something that makes my knee feel like knives are trying to poke out from the inside. (like, ya know, when I did that plie that caused my back knee to bend.)
Doing something to hurt my back. Again.
Not to mention how accident prone I am. Something bad happens so much that I’m beginning to believe I’m just making some of them up because there’s no way this many low-key tragedies can happen to one person. I must just be dramatic, right? Until someone connects it all and is shocked. Guess I’m not dramatic…

But if I’m not aware of where I falter, I’ll never get better.

I try to keep myself open to correction. I value constructive criticism.
But for me there’s a certain way to go about it, or moreso one way not to.

When I was a kid, my family hounded me for whining.
It made me so upset, because I didn’t think I was whining. I thought I was just expressing how I felt about something and trying to get them to understand where I was coming from, potentially leading to a solution.
Apparently I failed at that, because they would shut me down by telling me to stop whining or doing the precious little “I’m a whiner” jingle they made up and taunted me with.
It crushed me.
It’s a deep gash that I try and ignore and can typically avoid in life, but when it comes up, it leaves me crying like a 6-year-old like, oh, ya know, 82% of the time I’ve been typing this.

It makes me feel like such a failure. Like my efforts aren’t enough. Like I just have to never let myself try and understand why I’m doing one thing and how to be able to do another, but instead to just do as I’m told and hope it works out okay.
Do you know how daunting that is? How hopeless that makes me feel?
It takes out the very fire that burns in me, begging me to dance.
It silences my passion.

Now, I don’t blame Ms. Lori. How was she to know that two simple words would trigger such intense reactions in me? How is she to know that this would cause a domino effect of fear in me, throwing up a wall toward the things I’m most terrified to attempt but know I have to break through in able to go anywhere. It makes me terrified to take the risk I know my dancing depends on. Something that should be so simple. I feel like it takes the progress I’ve made and shoves it backwards 30 feet, leaving me reeling and having to make up the lost ground all over again, by myself, while trying to convince myself that these rather convincing voices in my head aren’t right in what they’re telling me, even though they’ve been put there my whole life by people who are supposed to build me up.

Can you blame me for being hurt by it, though? When my entire life I’ve been shot down with these words? Being told that my concerns weren’t valid, even when I knew I was right, because I expressed them in a way appropriate for someone the age I was?

I can sort of see how it came across as whining to Ms. Lori tonight; maybe more of an excuse. But my intentions of vocalizing my fears were to express what I thought was causing it and opening myself up to ways to correct it.
I made myself vulnerable, and was shot.

(unintentionally. I in no way blame Ms. Lori.)

So I’m going to let myself cry, try not to overthink any of this or let myself sink into the black hole of my past, and move past this. And then I’ll message Ms. Lori about private classes.

Like Taylor Swift told me on my way home, you gotta shake it off.

Last rehearsal before theatre week!

Yesterday was our last rehearsal in the downtown studio. The rest of them will officially be in the theatre and it doesn’t feel like this is even possible that by this time next week, Wizard of Oz will be a memory.

I don’t know if I’m ready for that.

(I am ready to be able to go to bed and not have the super buzzing-bee-cartoon-character-type music in my head all night, though, so there’s that.) (ps. that’s what the Winkie Guard Solo scene music sounds like.)

(anyway.)

We were supposed to run it twice, but were only able to run it full-through once.
I got to do the Crows one last time, as one of the girls who is usually there wasn’t. I’m not sure where she was, but the poor girl has been sick for a while and dancing through it so maybe that’s it. I just hope she’s feeling better, poor girl has been working her butt off for this show. Of all the girls I’d have to jump in for, she and one other would break my heart.

Before and after Crows I ran the first scene with the girls in hopes that we would be able to show Julie that we mean business and are working hard. They were really showing some great improvement and I was proud of them. I think the hardest part during these studio rehearsals is their struggle with distraction. There are so many people and movement and things going on that if you aren’t completely focused, you’re bound to mess up. It’s even happened to me. The front people can’t afford this.
Sadly, one of the front girls messed up so they both got switched in the scene. It was a tough lesson to learn, but it happened anyway. The girls that got moved forward will do the part well. They know it through and through and I think the bout of necessary confidence will be great for them.
Most everything else seemed to show great improvement.

During corrections, we got chewed because a lot of the girls weren’t paying attention. (not all, but enough.)
It’s no wonder those are the ones that don’t know what’s going on most of the time. It takes a toll on everyone.
It’s exhausting to have to be the one to hold up the group, and I wouldn’t be able to without the couple other girls that are very aware of what is going on. Knowing I can bounce things off them and we can come to a conclusion is what keeps this scene afloat. If they would just do confidently what they know, they would shine. But I understand it’s hard at that age, especially with so many people watching and it being such a risk.

I sent a few of the pictures to the company principals when I got home (even though I’m kinda not supposed to?) and got to talking with my friend Abby.
She said this:

I told her how there are times I just want to shake some of the girls and scream “SHE JUST SAID WHAT YOU’RE ASKING ME LITERALLY TEN SECONDS AGO PAY ATTENTION.” But that’s not allowed. I then mentioned how nice it was to hear it, too, because before when I was involved in dance or theatre, to do what I’m doing here was a guaranteed way to get yourself stuck as an understudy. Instead of seeing all your hard work and taking it into consideration that you’d be a good person to rely on and cast in the role in the first place, they saw you as a solid back up to have for if the leads flaked like they were prone to. (yet they always seemed to pull it together for the show. All glory, no work ethic.) It’s really nice to know that working hard to make sure things still run smoothly in case something happens isn’t going to get me permanently benched, but instead will help me in the long run.
She then said:

And this is when I melted into a puddle.
For the first time in a really, really long time I actually feel like I belong somewhere. That who I am is enough just as I am. That I’m not a failure or lacking or a disappointment, but instead a valuable asset. That hard work isn’t being ignored.
(Ps. I have really great friends that are there for me when I need it and quick to celebrate me when things go well. To have such people there for the highs as well as the lows is something I cherish. You people make the world go round.)

Understudy.

When I did theater in High School, I tended to get understudy roles.
Such is the curse of responsible students, and ones who won’t complain until you give them a part.
(and it probably didn’t help that I was insecure and didn’t speak up. How times have changed.)

Point is, I learned so many valuable lessons being the understudy, and here we are ten years later putting them to extreme use.

The understudy is one of the biggest responsibilities.
You have to learn the part you cover, plus be aware of all the other parts. You have to be capable of jumping in on a moments notice, possibly without ever actually doing the role any more than just on the sidelines or by yourself. And all this work could still lead to you not getting to do the role on stage. And you have to be okay with it.
That’s probably the hard part; working your tail off, showing up to every rehearsal, filling in and never getting the fulfillment of actually performing it on that stage.

But all is not lost.

Show up; early even. Be there.
Focus hard, learn every in and out of that part. Leave no stone unturned.
Remain aware. Ask questions if you need to. Keep yourself prepared. Keep the role familiar and fresh in your mind. Run it in your head. Mark it and think it through. Work hard.

Because even if you don’t get to dance the role on the stage during the performance, those couple minutes on that stage isn’t the tell all.

Today in rehearsal, three girls were out of the role I cover for auditions with their new High School. It worked out slick cause it was the girl I typically cover, and the other two that were missing were a pair, so the dance didn’t look awkward. I strapped on my character shoes and danced it like it were my last time to dance it because, chances are, it was.
I was hoping they would be gone and I would get to do it in costume the second run through, but they showed up.
I got complimented on the way I do the role, which makes me feel really good inside. Not because I think I’m better than anyone, because I know I’m really not. But because it means I’m doing my job.
Yeah, it sucks that I put in all this work–more than some of the cast roles in some cases–but that’s my part. I’m the cover; the understudy. I’m not entitled to the role. I’m just doing my job. Covering is my part.
For people to tell me that I do the role well, and that they enjoy watching me, really just puts my nerves at ease. I’m twice the age of some of these girls, ten years older than others, and I haven’t even been dancing half the amount of years they have. Yet I get to dance along side them. I get to be included.
To know that they like it means that I have succeeded, and at the beginning of this, I wasn’t so sure that I would. I was very nervous. But I rose. The impossible became possible.

My back started hurting after the second half, but it’s feeling better than is usual, especially for the amount of dancing we’re doing. What kicked me in the butt today was the IBS. Earlier this week I got really stressed out at work, and when that happens it effects my digestion. I’ll spare you the gory details, but lets just say it greatly effected how much I can use my core. Which is, ya know, important to ballet. There were times I felt like I was going to have to run to the bathroom, or throw up, or when costumes were on I was a bit concerned I might pass out. I couldn’t even finish my lunch, my stomach hurt so badly. The way I felt today is probably the most extreme side effects I’ve had since being diagnosed. Holding it all together proved difficult, but I just tried to breathe. Hyper focusing on something else helped take my mind off of it, which helped me plow through. The still moments were the most difficult.
When we got to the second run-through, Mrs. Julie told us the changes to how the school show was going to go since it mostly effected the Winkie Guards role. (any other it effected were just dropped, not changed.) We ran a bit of it just to mark and iron out before putting on our costumes and doing the whole thing. The moment is blurry now (my brain is mush) as to when Mrs. Julie actually came up to me, but she did, and she said, “Emerson had to leave. Do you know her solo?” to which I said, “yes” she said, “can you do it?” and I said, “yes” and then she said, “Okay, lets mark it.” and we did a couple times to make sure I had the arms and the positioning right. She threw in a “make it big” to get the expression how she wants it and I ran it a couple times then went to put on my costume.

I was nervous beyond all reason. The feet weren’t fluid to me, and I really didn’t want to mess it up. I had never actually ran it before, but this wasn’t the time to be nervous. This was the time to show that I can do this. That you can throw me into a role and I’ll be able to step up. This was the time to trust my training and just go for it.
When it came down to it, I had the timing off a little, which made me not have my feet right, but I had the direction right, and fixed it the first second I had a chance.
No one really noticed. They mostly commented on how well I did the character, which is what matters during shows like this that tell a story.
As soon as it was over and I went to grab my bow (our prop) and join in with the other girls, I knew my little flub would not be what was remembered. Since I was filling in for Emerson, the girls didn’t have anyone to watch for the timing of the part that we begin as soon as Emerson is finished and walking off into the wings before she joins us. It was a complete mess, and I just kind of laughed inside.
No one would remember my flub.
Sure enough, when it came time for corrections, that was what got the heat. They can’t rely on me so much, but have to know it for themselves. I don’t know what else they can say to get it through their heads, but they really need to take ownership and pay attention to know what’s going on instead of relying on me all the time. It’s really exhausting.
(now, this isn’t to say no one pays attention. There are those that do, and they are the ones that I know I can ask questions to if I’m a little unsure as to what’s next, or to come and get me from the other side of the stage if I’m not in the right place because I’m mixing up my scenes. Some of the girls have a great handle on things, but rely on the extra added security, because honestly, who wouldn’t? But they have to know how to function without it. I think it was a good eye opener. Those few girls are really good, and they got complimented today in ways that show their hard work. I was proud.)
Some of the more advanced girls complimented me on the solo. One even gave me a glance when the other guards got chewed. It made me feel good to know that my hard work is churning out results. Now I know that I’m not the best dancer out there. I know I have much to improve on. But all those compliments really mean so much to me. Not to fuel my ego, but to feel like I’ve finally come full circle.
Before, I would work so hard, and still be ignored. Like my best was never enough. This seems to be a reoccurring theme in my life and it is pretty draining. It can sap the life right out of you.
But to be here, and to know that I can work hard, and put forth all this effort, and do my best every day and that it isn’t unseen, it makes every bit of it so worth it.
Because really, every rehearsal is an audition. These directors and teachers glean things about you from it. They form up a running log of what you’re capable of, how you respond, if you’re responsible, how you handle pressure or malfunctions, how you communicate, you work ethic, and they put all these things into consideration in future shows.
I know some politics goes into roles occasionally, it’s inevitable, but I have a full heart knowing that I have done everything I can and that it’s enough. That if I don’t get a full role, it’s not because of anything I did. That they will utilize me where they see I fit and know that I am capable of good things. I know that they know they can put their trust in me, and breathe easy knowing I’ll do what I’m asked and what’s required of me.

Even though I don’t get to dance Crows for any of the shows, and even though Emerson will be back in her solo tomorrow (she rocks it, by the way.) this wasn’t all for nothing.
If anything, I really love being the cover. Being the one that can let the director breathe easier knowing I’m there in case anything happens. Especially on a show like this.

I have done my job.

Before rehearsal. 

After rehearsal.
We’re dead inside.

Annika hacking my phone 😀

Apparently it rained? That’s usually a field…

And this is when I realized I forgot my rainboots at the studio.

Yesterday. (ooey gooey feelys)

Yesterday was the first class I was ever able to do completely en pointe.

Now, I may have done this at Instep, but I don’t remember if I ever made it all the way through. Usually my toes would hurt so badly that I could never actually get through the steps I needed to. I remember it being very discouraging.

Yesterday was encouraging.
It was stability and compliments.
It was hope and sore feet and feeling like I was doing something right for once.
It was trying harder and doing more and pushing limits.

Yesterday was nothing special, but it was everything.

I found myself standing by myself at the smaller barre along the short wall, really taking in everything around me. These girls, all in the same place at the same barres they always stand at, pressing themselves harder than normal, focusing on their technique. Ms. Lori, leading us along in this endeavor to become our best. She kept saying things like, “Don’t let this get to your head, but people are watching this class.” and I would laugh inside that she opened with the preface she did, because out of this whole class, maybe one may let it go to her head, but maybe not. Mostly these girls are fueled by hope and ambition, striving to be their best and oblivious to the fact that they’re already better than the next level above them for the most part. One of the girls said, “I know why. It’s because you’re our teacher.”
I couldn’t have said it better.

And I stood back (metaphor) and for the first time, I saw these girls as competition.
They aren’t just the “cute little ones” anymore. These girls are biting at my heels, some surpassing me. They will get roles I will probably never be able to get. Maybe simply because I am too old, but maybe because they’re better.
These girls are dedicated. You tell them to jump and they leap. You tell them to try and they succeed.
No one has let them in on the secret the world is keeping that you’re supposed to be afraid. And honestly, I hope no one ever does. These girls are capable of so much. The world is theirs for the taking, and they’re taking it.
And honestly, I can’t wait to see where they go. I’m excited to see what the next audition holds for them. We have six Clara’s in their class, easy, if not more. They’re so good. And the last thing in their head is to let it make them proud.
I’m literally brought to tears at the thought of it. At the thought that I get to be a part of this class. That this doesn’t just end when we finish with IV’s. That I get to go with these girls on to the V’s class. It challenges me to work hard so I can keep pace with them, and encourages me that if they can do it I can, too. They may think I’m there to encourage them, but really they’re encouraging me.

We got our recital costumes yesterday. I wish I would have taken a picture of the Polaroid, because it’s perfect. The colors are absolutely stunning and the way it flows on stage takes your breathe away. It brought Ms. Lori to tears when we ran the piece, and you could see the girls take pride in themselves as they danced. (not the negative, head-hawty pride, but the kind that brings a feeling of adrenaline-inducing accomplishment.) They all loved the head pieces, too, which made me feel really good.
They smile more. The ones that were in their shell at the start of the year are opening up, and the “popular” girls are accepting of everyone. Gah, I love it.

Ms. Munro came in at one point and was really impressed with what she saw. She even said, in hushed tones, “I really think this is the best dance of the whole recital.”
What an honor to get to be a part of something so special.

Allison took this of my feet after class.

It’s nice to see that you’ve improved. That all your work wasn’t for nothing. That you’re not as bad as your brain would have you believe. I still have a long way to go, but I’ll get there. If I can get here, I’ll get there.

This is me with Nina. One of my many babies in the class. She calls me Mom 🙂
This year has literally been the best. And it’s not over yet.

"When I mess up on something, I give up."

Yesterday one of the girls admitted something to me after class.
“When I mess up on something, I find myself just giving up. Like if I can’t get those jete’s, then I just stop trying.”
She continued to tell me about getting so angry at herself. It completely defeats her.

I let her in on the secrets of how I escape this, even though they aren’t really secrets. Still, it took me a few years to learn these things, and they have helped me tremendously.

  • You only go as far as where you give up.
    I don’t remember where I first heard this concept, but it’s stuck with me. Even when I felt completely defeated, I refused to let myself walk out of the studio, and I did my best to at least attempt whatever it was (unless I knew it was dangerously out of reach, but that is rare. Usually it’s fear.)
  • Failure is how you learn to fly
    It’s hard to try your hardest and it not be good enough, especially in ballet. We are some of the biggest perfectionists out there, and are really good at tearing ourselves apart. We have to be in order to go anywhere. But there is a fine line between criticism and constructive criticism. (if you haven’t figured it out, it’s the “constructive” bit.) You want to look at your progress as a teaching tool, not as a gauge of failure. It’s not about being better than anyone but yourself. If we aren’t allowed the room to be less than perfect in class, then what’s the point in coming? We are all in the process of learning. We are striving for perfection, but we are not expected to be perfect. We have to try things before we can succeed in anything. I find it helps to watch kids attempt things; to mimic what they see the older dancers doing. They don’t look  perfect by a long shot, but they get the feel for it and before you know it you see them again and they have it down better than you. Because, wouldn’t you know, they didn’t give up.
  • Leave yourself room for your humanity
    Even the greatest dancer has struggled. Ballet isn’t great because the people are born great, it’s because they strive for greatness. Sure, some people are born with genetics that give them a bit up an upper hand, but that’s the exception, not the rule. If it were the rule, I would be hopeless.
    But I’m not hopeless. Neither are you.
  • Watch the better dancers, pick out their flaws.
    She responded to this with, “That’s mean!” But then I explained.
    I don’t pick out their flaws to judge them, I pick out there flaws to judge myself. I noticed about this time last year that if you stared at a professional dancer’s feet, they weren’t always completely stable. Makes sense, right? Since she’s balancing her entire weight on two toes for extended periods of time. But we get this image in our head that they are flawless, when the truth is the opposite. That just means they’re doing something right, because we are supposed to appear flawless, even if we aren’t. If I see a professional, or a more advanced dancer struggling to hold their balance, I think, “that’s what I do!” and I see that if she can do it, so can I. Does that make sense?
  • If you’re not confident, go with someone better than you.
    I kinda learned this at my old studio, but in a different way. She used to tell us if we weren’t sure of the step to go with someone who is so you can watch them. But now if I’m not sure of a step, I go with someone better than me because all those other people who are waiting for their turn, who are watching to get the step better in their brains before they go, they’re watching the good dancer. They may watch you, but chances are their eyes go to the super advanced dancer to see the step more clearly. This goes for groupings in center, too. If I’m unsure I try and go first, near someone I can see. chances are the other dancers are also unsure and they will want to watch someone who is sure. If that’s not you, they won’t watch you. Pressure’s off. People tend to think I’m really confident in my dancing when really I’m not. It just appears that way because of these tricks. And no one seeing my struggles until I’m confident enough to be seen. (the teachers still see me, so I still get my corrections, though. So that’s good.)
  • Realize dancers are typically selfish
    And not in a jerk-selfish way. They want to better themselves, so chances are they aren’t watching you dance to pick you apart, but rather to pick themselves apart. I used to be really intimidated to be in a class with good dancers, because I was so afraid of their opinion. As I got to know them, I realized that no one really noticed what I did about myself. They saw me as a good dancer and picked themselves apart, not me. They aren’t out to get you, they don’t think any less of you.
  • Effort is more important than talent.
    What I mean by this is, I’m not exceptionally talented in dance. I know I have a long way to go. But one thing I do have an advantage of is coming from a theatre background. I can play the part.
    Take Crows for instance. I haven’t taken a jazz class in 7 years, but no one knew that. Why? Because my face told otherwise. My face showed confidence, so everyone believed it, even if I was struggling with the step. If you don’t show that you’re insecure in your dance, then no one will notice. And if for some reason someone catches it, they tend to be way more forgiving and understanding. If you put forth effort, it shows that you’re willing to work towards becoming better than where you are currently. Just this week I saw girls from the III’s dance as well as V’s, but their faces made them look so miserable. That’s what set them apart, not their dancing. It shows the potential for success. It inspires the people who watch you, and that’s what we’re really out there to do. To make the audience feel something.
  • Refocus your anger
    Instead of going home and taking it out on yourself, refocus it on bettering yourself. This doesn’t happen over night, but it’s a good use of that angry energy. Take your anger and pick apart what you did wrong. Then work on figuring out why you did that wrong and how to fix it. Focus on fixing your mistakes rather than being angry that you made one. Be proactive in your anger. Also,
  • Enlist someone you trustThis takes a bit of vulnerability, but it is so worth it. Find someone you trust and ask them to watch you. For me, this is typically Andie and Annika. I know I can go to them and have them watch me do whatever step I’m working on. They’ll see it and pick out what it is that I can’t see (usually turns) that is making me falter. They’ll tell me in a kind and beneficial way, not in a way that tears me down or belittles me. (I think this is what we are generally afraid of. But we know friends won’t hurt us, and if they do they shouldn’t be your friend.) Ultimately they want to see me succeed, and if they can help me to success, I know they will. Ps. This is how I got the pirouette down for Nutcracker. That thing was really difficult, but Andie watched me and pointed out that I dipped my leading arm instead of staying straight and locked. A few tries later and I had it down. Like jumping off the diving board into an adults arms. They won’t let you fall or tell you anything to make you drown.
  • No one is born perfect.
    In this case, I used Annika; someone I’ve seen rise to greatness, and someone they only know as great. I told them how two years ago when she first came in our class, she was as good as Ileana–someone who has great potential and you know will be good, but still has some things to learn and perfect. Last year, she was Lauren–someone that you looked at and saw that she had talent, and you were excited to see where she would go, but still is on the journey to get there.
    This year, she’s Annika–the mirliton right out the gate. The understudy to a principal role. The seeming prodigy who seemingly has shaken the studio in the best way possible.
    She didn’t get there over night; it took a lot of work. But it pays off.
  • Do what you love.
    Remind yourself of why you come to class everyday. What is it about dance that makes you love it? Show that in your dancing, even if you’re still struggling. My friend Annabelle is one of the greatest examples of this. She has no fear when she dances, it makes her come alive. So what if she wasn’t perfectly turned out that time? So what if she messed up the arm in the first run through? So what if she mixed it up that last time? The teacher may see it, but they know that you know you missed it and that you’ll correct it next time. If it becomes a pattern, then they’ll say something. Allow yourself the room to feel free. 

This is all I do, what I remind myself of, and I’ve had people look at me like I’m a better dancer than I actually am. It’s about being confident in yourself, which is sometimes hard to figure out how to do.

This doesn’t mean that you’re always so happy with how you did that class and things go perfectly–that’s impossible. It means that you let yourself actually enjoy what you’re doing and allow yourself the room to grow and improve. This is how you will excel. This is how you will succeed.

Ps. Ms. Alex complimented me in class yesterday. I usually struggle to keep my knees straight, especially at the barre. Apparently my hip being jacked up has caused me to think about this more, in turn making me engage all the muscles I need to and–tadaaaaa–straighten my knees.
It made me feel really good 🙂

progress

It feels really good when you’re in a class with dancers more advanced than you and you are able to keep up.
Usually I struggle.
Usually I get the concept, but not the full combination.
Usually I mess up direction or can’t even attempt the arms.

And, sure, there were a few times I messed up the arms or forgot to do the exact arms asked, but for the most part I kept up. I was able to pay attention not just to doing the step, but to the artistry of it. I was able to hold the balance and promenade without dropping the leg or falling out of it completely.
Granted, I was on flat shoes, and it would have been a bit more difficult en pointe, but I was able to do it in flats and work on the artistry rather than struggling with just getting through it on pointe. But even so, to know that I wouldn’t have been way over my head on pointe either was a really nice fact.

I finally feel like I’m growing, and it’s a really nice feeling.

It’s been storming here all last night and today. I almost didn’t make it to work and part of me wishes I would have come. (darn needing money.) But I think it’s cleared up enough to still make today’s class, so I am very excited about this. I had to miss last week because of my back, but I really want to be there.

Dance is the best thing in my life right now. This weekend left me in a state of euphoria, making coming back to reality really difficult. I can only hope that one day my life will be filled with things that leave me euphoric, and not things that shoot me down and stress me sick (especially when it can be avoidable. I get that life isn’t perfect, I’m not asking for it to be. I’m just asking to not have to subject myself to pointless abuse.)

3 cheers for dance

Why do you dance?

There’s this ongoing inner “struggle” of sorts over the gap between my skill level and my age.

For the most part, everything is okay.
But there are times when I just wish that I was better. That I had began earlier. That I could have been dancing all these years instead of just the past 3.5ish.
It can get overwhelming. Sometimes it feels pointless. Not that dancing for me isn’t good, but that I don’t add anything to the company. That I’m just the awkward adult that thankfully looks like she’s in high school so it’s not too weird putting her with younger kids.

It’s disheartening to have these dreams of progressing through the years, just to have my body mess up because I’m older, or to realize that things could happen and I don’t know how long I’ll dance.
What if I get married and can’t? What if I have a kid? What if I move? What if I break something? What if I throw out my back and mess it up for good?
Sure, all these things could happen and I could still be able to dance. But bad things seem to happen to me often, so my mind tends to try and prepare itself for the worst. Disappointment is rough.

Reality is that I may not get to dance long enough to improve enough to do everything I dream of doing, but that doesn’t mean I should just give up or not give it my all.

And maybe that’s the difference.
I’m not burned out on dancing. I’m not doing it because someone is making me. I don’t have a million opportunities of things I would like to try or whatever like most school kids do. I’m not still trying to figure out what I like and what I don’t and what might be nice or what I may or may not be good at.
I’m an adult, and I’ve mostly figured out what I enjoy and why and have pursued these things.
I’m dancing because I want to be here.
I also realize that everything could change tomorrow.
Just this weekend at rehearsals I found out a friend of mine who is a teen was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer.
Nothing is guaranteed.

I’ve journaled a lot over the years, and one thing that does for me is help me remember how people made me feel when certain things happened, or what I wish would have happened.
New school? I remember feeling beyond nervous, wishing someone would be kind and show me around. So when there was a new kid, what did I do?
Starting ballet for the first time? I remember shaking and feeling so insecure about where I was compared to the others. I remember no one talking to me and questioning why I was there. I also remember the girl in class who was the best coming to help me when I stood frozen in a corner.
What did I do when there was a new person after me? Introduced myself, learned their name, encouraged them after class. People would later ask me if I knew them before they came in. I didn’t, but I was them once.

Now I find myself in a unique position.
I am a twenty-six-year-old girl who made it through the horrors of high school, the nerves of college, the difficulties of family, the complications of roommates, etc.
I remember being 12-15 and being nervous and wondering if people liked me or if I was annoying. I remember seeing the twenty-somethings and wishing I was important enough for them to say hi to me. I remember being afraid to risk things because of what people would think. And now I see that what goes on in our heads mostly never happens. More than likely, people aren’t thinking you’re annoying, they aren’t hating you, they don’t think you’re unimportant, they won’t think less of you for taking a risk.
I remember being 6-11 and thinking the older girls were the coolest things in the world. I remember watching what they do and wanting to do that, to be that. I remember feeling so cool if they put their arm around me, or called me by name, or hugged me, or waved, or smiled at me, or countless other things. I remember seeing what they did and trying to imitate it.
I remember being in high school. I remember being too sad to function. I remember zoning out in AP US History because I couldn’t even find the energy to pay attention with all the darkness clouding my mind. I remember tearing up, drawing in my binder to try and keep the tears from falling. I remember dreading school, dreading tests, dreading report cards. I remember knowing I could do better but not being able to figure out how to be better because I was so depressed and no one would accept that because they were so used to me being happy.
I remember.

And here I am, surrounded by these kids.
Taking classes with them. Being cast along side them.
I’m not the twenty-six-year-old teacher, I’m the twenty-six-year-old-who-looks-fifteen classmate.
I’m not the one to be feared, I’m just another one of them.

I have a very unique position, but it’s my choice whether I take it or not.
I don’t have to say hi to them. I don’t have to ask them how school is going, or if there dog is feeling better, or how their math test went, or when the drill team auditions are, or any number of other things going on in their life.
I don’t have to tell them their arabesque is looking really good, or that their leotard looks nice on them, or that they completely nail their solo, or that they are a joy to watch during their part, or that they have a great bun that day, or countless other things.
I don’t have to.
But I do.

Because not to long ago, I was nervous. Not too long ago, I didn’t think I was good enough. Not too long ago, I thought everyone judged me by how my leotard fit. Not too long ago, I thought I was falling through the cracks, nothing important, what am I even doing here? Not to long ago I would have given anything for someone to say something encouraging to me, and if they ever did, I cherished it.

So although it was a little difficult to be cast as the cover for the Crows role next to all these kids younger than me, it was only difficult for half a second. Moreso, I was thrilled to be considered good enough to have that responsibility. (case and point: one of the covers has to do their role for at least one show. Good thing she’s a hard worker!) And even though chances are I won’t dance the part, there was a point when that wasn’t certain, and Julie knew that if she needed me, she could throw me in and it would be okay. (She even said this, about me and the girl who gets to dance the role one of the shows, in front of everyone.)
I dance it, full out. I enjoy the moment, even if it won’t matter. Because I’m having so much fun in this opportunity I didn’t think I would even get and want to show them that they weren’t wrong to trust me to cover the role.

Then this happens:

I was torn between, “What a nice thing for my friend to say!” and completely fangirling. 
My friend happens to also be the best dancer in the company. We are new friends, so I only really see her at rehearsals, but friends nonetheless. For her to say that how I danced made her want to be the role…I really can’t think of a higher compliment.
It washed all my concerns away.
I am capable.
I am worth being here.
My efforts aren’t pointless.
I’m not sucking as much as I thought.
I may never be a principal dancer, but that doesn’t mean that my dancing is for nothing.
You don’t have to be a principal dancer to inspire. 
This is why I like being in my level, even though it’s not my age.
Because I can say something like this to the younger dancers. 
I may never be a principal, but they could be. And if it takes a few nice words to help them get there, I’m going to hold nothing back.